Tom Zbikowski has outlasted Bernard Pollard and is primed to start at strong safety in the Ravens' season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Zbikowski, the organization's third-round pick in 2008, is listed to start alongside free safety Ed Reed on the team's depth chart, and both Zbikowski and Pollard confirmed the hierarchy Thursday.
"That's what we're looking to see," Zbikowski said, carefully choosing his words. "We've got plenty of packages. We'll be rolling in and out. That's not necessarily what's going to be happening the entire game or the entire season. It's just where we're at right now. So I'll just keep playing and keep getting better."
Zbikowski made three starts in the preseason, and Pollard started twice. Although the Ravens wooed Pollard and signed him to a two-year contract on Aug. 4, Zbikowski's familiarity with the defense's schemes appeared to give him the edge.
Asked if starting served as validation, Zbikowski said, "It definitely does with what we've been through this offseason and through training camp and stuff. The coaches [have] the confidence in me that I know the defense well enough and that I'm going to make enough plays."
Statistically, Pollard enjoyed a better offseason than Zbikowski did. Pollard finished with seven tackles, one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery. Zbikowski had four tackles.
"That's one of the same things I had said, but Zbikowski is a great player," said Pollard, who did not sound disappointed or frustrated about the decision. "He's been here for four years, and this is a whole new system for me. Not to say that I don't know it because I'm ready to go out there and play now. But the coaching staff chose to go ahead and go with him, and it's something I have to adjust to."
Zbikowski will fill the void created when Dawan Landry opted to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the offseason. Zbikowski, who has made 10 starts in three years, said he appreciated the coaching staff's confidence in him.
"It means a lot, especially going into this first game," he said. "Definitely need it. I've played them plenty of times, so it just feels good. It's something I've been looking forward to, to play alongside Ed and not necessarily just filling in for him all the time."